Genre: Eerily Familiar Supernatural Ghost Stories
review in one breath
This is a collection of 5 tales which I am sure you will find quite HAUNTING. By "haunting" I mean these tales are the mere ghosts of plots and twists which were alive and well in much more effective and successful films and collections of the recent past. Watch this alone; Watch it with friends; Watch it with your eyes closed. It will make no difference. Onryou will remain the haunted graveyard of mediocrity!
The title Onryou can be interpreted "angry spirit" and in traditional Japanese lore refers to spirits of varying degrees of power responsible for a variety of calamities ranging from civil war to mental breakdown. This movie consists of five different stories all having to do with an onryou and the consequences it brings.
This collection is one of the Honto ni atta! Kowai Hanashii series, and tells each of the five tales in the first person, narrated by the character who encounters the malevolent ghost. Unlike the others in this series, Onryou was a theatrical release in 2004 and had a cast of fairly popular stars. Despite this, however, Onryou remains quite mediocre both in storyline and special effects. Most if not all of the five ghost stories contain major elements which j-horror fans will recognize from other more popular films. This does not mean that everything in Onryou is derivative, as I saw a couple story elements which I hadn't seen elsewhere.
The following are brief summaries of the five vignettes.
Shin'ya no Keibiin (The Night Watchman)
During the midnight shift, a night watchman encounters increasingly bizarre and frightening phenomena. Creepy noises lead the watchman to a dark and dishevelled bathroom which, once entered, allows no escape. In a strange twist on the Toire no Hanako theme, this men's room ghoulie wreaks some major havok on the mental and physical well-being of our hapless night watchman.
Kubisaka (Rolling Heads)
On her way home from the club, a young woman's routine walk home turns into something disturbingly different as she gradually senses a malevolent presence around her. Before long, out of the corner of her eye, she is catching glimpses of a shadowy woman in white. This would seem creepy enough until her vision of the woman gradually becomes clearer, revealing that white ghoul is dragging behind her several severed heads. In a fate similar to that in Juon, it is said that the woman in white is forever cursed to roam the earth carrying the severed heads of her family for the murder-suicide she committed.
Sougiya ga mita mono (What the Undertaker saw)
On a routine visit to arrange funeral details with a mourning family, the undertaker cannot help but notice something strange in the room where the deceased still lay (as is customary in Japan). During his discussion with the surviving 4 family members regarding the deceased father's wishes, he is quite certain that he saw the deceased father standing behind him looking at the family. This supernatural vision soon snowballs as the remaining family members, one by one, succumb to mysterious, sudden deaths.
Komaku Ishoku (Eardrum Transplant)
The otherwise miraculous eardrum transplant gives a young deaf girl her first opportunity to hear the world around her. But when she begins hearing things which others don't hear, very creepy and horrible things, she soon wishes for the solitude and simplicity of her former silence. In an ear-centric version of the HK/Thai thriller The Eye we once again learn that organ transplants carry major potential risks to one's mental health.
Erebatoru no shoujou (Young Girl on the elevator)
Well, as the title implies, this is about a young girl ghoulie on the elevator. And this is all this story is about, borrowing imagery straight out of Juon and Dark Water. The only difference here, perhaps, is that there are actually three young girl ghosts, all wearing the same school uniform.
Although this is actually a theatrical release, the level of production and presentation of Onryou does not for a minute rise above the myriad other straight-to-video productions in the Honto ni atta! Kowai Hanashii series. For the most part, these are rather cheesy representations of someone else's horror motifs, only far less horrific than the originals. For die-hard fans of j-horror, I can recommend this for the fun value. But for those of you who simply loathe the notion of derivatives or reliance upon tried-and-true storyline elements, this is definitely one (of oh so many) to avoid.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Nothing to learn here, other than your own threshold of endurance.||Yes, that well-dressed lady really is dragging around a bunch of severed heads.||Nada.||See that crawling lady in the cover graphic? She is actually an audience member crawling down the theater aisle trying to escape this movie!.|